5 ways to prepare for a new era of Customer Experience

By Tim Whiting, VP Marketing, Voice of Customer Solutions at Verint Systems Inc.

If you’re familiar with the Gartner Hype Cycle, you’re probably familiar with the “peak of inflated expectations” and the “trough of disillusionment” that are precursors to the “plateau of productivity” represented by emerging technologies. While Customer Experience (CX) is not a technology (although technology supporting CX is becoming more and more prevalent in Gartner’s hype cycle), you may be observing a similar CX evolution in your organization and in the market.

A new era of Customer Experience is upon us as CX moves steadily towards becoming a de facto strategic imperative for any organization seeking competitive differentiation and business growth in today’s marketplace. To provide some insight into the current state of the CX market, and provide a bellwether of how well organizations are actually able to quantify the impact of their CX initiatives as they seek to achieve competitive advantage, Customer Think  just completed a new primary research study entitled “What Drives CX Success?”

Based on the input of numerous CX leaders and an evaluation of over 200 CX initiatives, 5 main conclusions emerged about what it takes for your organization to drive positive business outcomes through CX. The 5 main conclusions from the study are telling, and well-aligned with what we’re observing in the market today.

1) Your CX vision must extend beyond fixing problems
The study concludes that “improving major touchpoints such as customer service, while a common and often necessary starting point, does not yield the best returns. CX initiatives enjoy greater success when they improve the customer journey or deliver a unique experience to differentiate in the market”.

The movement from “improving touchpoints” to “improving journeys” is happening today in organizations which are aggressively moving themselves from siloed views of their customer to a connected view. Organizations typically interact with their customers through three channels, contact centers, digital channels and sometimes physical locations. Of these three, digital is where  this evolution is accelerating in many organizations.

Today, much of the customer experience is shifting to digital. Even in a segment like fast casual dining where physical locations remain a critical component in the customer journey, digital is playing an increasing role in the pre-dining experience (choosing venue and customizing orders on-line), the in-store experience (interacting with staff via digital onsite) and the post-dining experience (providing feedback and recommendations). Where digital CX teams were once exclusively focused on finding and fixing issues with the digital experience, they’re now emerging to play a leading role in improving CX across the entire customer journey.

If you’re not already, it’s time to start thinking “digital first” as you seek to move your organization forward from fixing CX problems in siloes to driving CX improvements across your entire customer journey. A digitally led, connected view will help you accelerate your effort to achieve competitive differentiation and business value with your CX initiatives.

2)  Your CX initiatives need a business case
The research study recommends that “Even when not formally required, CX leaders should prepare a business case in the language appropriate for decision makers”.

Most organizations are faced with competing CX priorities, so it’s important to understand the size and impact of any CX initiative and be able to prioritize based upon customer and business impact.  Leading organizations are moving to predictive and prescriptive analytics to get ahead of the curve and use data science to improve their confidence level on how they prioritize their CX to achieve the most significant positive business impact.

Beyond that, savvy CX leaders understand how the literal Voice of the Customer can play an important role in delivering a business case for evaluation that’s “in the language appropriate for decision makers”.  In addition to sound, quantitative business analysis, verbatim qualitative customer feedback  can help bring the numbers to life.  Reaching across organizational boundaries, a CX leader at a retailer can tap into the contact center and mine speech verbatims related to proposed improvements to the in-store experience, or a CX leader at a financial service provider can tap into real-time website VoC to bring to life why improvements in the overall client on-boarding process should be prioritized.
You’re probably already providing some type of business case to support your CX initiatives, but utilizing data science to help prioritize one CX initiative over another and leveraging Voice of Customer to bring your business case to life may help you achieve even greater success gaining consensus and approval across your organization.
3) Your CX programs must extend beyond legacy Voice of Customer sources and CX metrics
The CX leaders surveyed in the research indicate that “winning CX initiatives make more extensive use of non-survey sources such as text and social media”.  While the survey continues to play an important role in any VoC program supporting CX initiatives, surveys alone are no longer enough. It is important to think about ongoing conversations with customers throughout the customer journey as a source of insight to inform CX initiatives.

One important source of VoC that is often overlooked are the speech interactions that occur in the contact center. Organizations that have contact centers for sales or support often have speech recording and speech or text analytics in place to inform agent performance coaching and compliance programs. And the scale of this data can be staggering. For example, at a large insurance company, these interactions can number into millions of individual customer interactions captured every year. This high-volume of customer interactions combined with analytics capabilities to quickly derive actionable insights from those interactions, represents a major opportunity for CX leaders to inform their CX initiatives with a new source of customer data.

Although it requires working across organizational boundaries and looking at existing customer data through a new lens, “listening at scale” to your customers via your contact center is an invaluable resource to uncover CX blind spots that may be missed by traditional survey programs.

4) You need to invest in CX talent and technology
While the success of any CX program is certainly reliant on a talented team to deliver results, the CX leaders in the survey “cite better tools and systems to support customer feedback, analytics, and omnichannel experiences” as one key to success.

There are many technology solutions today that claim to support omnichannel experience management, so when evaluating technology to support your specific needs, ensure that you focus in on the differentiated value a solution can deliver related to your specific use cases.

A telecommunications company in an extremely competitive market may find the ability to detect CX anomalies and automatically alert frontline staff an important consideration when evaluating CX technology solutions. A retailer may prioritize the ability of a CX technology solution to benchmark them against peers and best-in-class.  Most important to a retail bank may be the ability for a CX technology solution to automatically synthesize CX data from across channels and drive down to the operational detail of specific interactions to improve closed-loop actionability.

Regardless of your priorities, remember there may be CX technology solutions already in place in your organization to support your omnichannel customer feedback and analysis needs. As mentioned, your contact center may already hold a treasure trove of omnichannel VoC, rich analytics capabilities and the ability to automatically connect customer feedback to operational context. Similarly, your digital team may already have capabilities in place that automatically detect CX anomalies and alert key stakeholders in your organization as an early warning system for emerging omni-channel CX issues.

5) You need a strong customer-centric culture
Finally, the research study indicates that “executives at companies with winning CX initiatives do a better job of “walking the talk” in customer value creation, customer delight, and customer feedback and action”.

To accomplish this objective, VoC can be an important tool in any CX leader’s toolbox to help strengthen their customer-centric culture.  For example, a real-time view of in the moment customer feedback can be an exceptionally powerful agent for cultural change when that data is democratized and visibly shared across the entire employee base. Think about how a retailer who shares real-time customer feedback about black Friday across all front-office and back-office functions can reach a new level of employee engagement with the customer experience.  Similarly, establishing a visible public venue in which to highlight for both customers and employees how you’ve taken action on customer feedback to drive customer delight can put an exclamation point on your organization’s dedication to customer value creation.

A new era of Customer Experience is upon us and this research is a great guide to help you rethink the building blocks of your CX program.